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SPACE FLIGHT 2002 -- Russian Space Activities

Marginally supported by a slowly improving national economy, Russia in 2002 showed what might turn out to be a slight rebound in space operations from 2001. Its total of 24 successful launches (out of 26 attempts) was one more than the previous year's 23 (out of 23 attempts): Four Soyuz-U (one crewed), two Soyuz-FG (one crewed), eight Protons, two Rockot (first launch 1994), one Zenit-3SL (sea launch, first launch 1999), two Molniya, four Kosmos-3M, and one Dnjepr-1 (first launch in 1999). The upgraded Soyuz-FG rocket flew twice; with its new fuel injection system which provides a five percent increase in thrust over the Soyuz-U, enhancing its lift capability by 200 kg and enabling it to carry the new Soyuz-TMA spacecraft, which is heavier than the Soyuz-TM ship currently used to ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS). Soyuz-TMA was flown for the first time on October 30, 2002, as ISS mission 5S. There were two major losses: a Soyuz-U, carrying the 13th Foton-M1 spacecraft with 44 microgravity experiments from Russia, ESA, USA and Japan in its 2-m-diameter recovery capsule failed on October 15 due to automatic engine shutdown 29 seconds after liftoff, and a Proton-K, on November 25, stranded Europe's Astra 1K, the world's largest communications satellite, in a useless orbit when its Block DM-3 upper stage failed to reignite for the second of three planned firings. The DM failure was the fourth in as many years for this stage, which is built by RSC Energia. The Canadian Nimiq-2 comsat with 32 Ku-band relay transponders for direct broadcast to Canadian customers, was subsequently, on December 30, launched successfully on a Proton-K, equipped with the new Briz-M (Breeze-M) upper stage from Khrunichev.

Commercial space activities. The Russian space program's major push to enter into the world's commercial arena by promoting its space products on the external market, driven by the need to survive in an era of severe reductions of public financing, continued with slow increase in 2002. First launched in July 1965, the Proton heavy lifter, originally intended as a ballistic missile (UR500), by end-2002 had flown 218 times since 1980, with 14 failures (reliability: 0.936). Its launch rate in recent years has been as high as 13 per year. Of the nine Protons launched in 2002 (2001: 6), five were for commercial customers (Intelsat 903, DirecTV-5, EchoStar 8, Astra 1K, Nimiq-2), the others for the state, including military. Between 1985-2002, 166 Proton and 388 Soyuz rockets were launched, with ten failures of the Proton and ten of the Soyuz, giving a combined reliability index of 0.964. Until its launch failure on October 15, 2002, the Soyuz rocket had flown 74 consecutive successful missions, including 12 with human crews on board. The single launch of the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-3SL rocket from the ocean-based Sea Launch facility Odyssey (in which RSC-Energia has a 25% share), carried the PanAmSat Galaxy 3C comsat.

In the new commercial venture of marketing journeys to the ISS to "space tourists", begun with Dennis Tito in April 2001, in April 2002 Russia launched the second space tourist, SFP (space flight participant) Mark Shuttleworth of the Republic of South Africa, to the ISS in Soyuz TM-34.